Responding to Allah’s Blessings with Indifference: Tafsir ibn Kathir

Allah says the following in part of surah Luqman:

أَلَمْ تَرَ أَنَّ الْفُلْكَ تَجْرِي فِي الْبَحْرِ بِنِعْمَتِ اللَّـهِ لِيُرِيَكُم مِّنْ آيَاتِهِ ۚ إِنَّ فِي ذَٰلِكَ لَآيَاتٍ لِّكُلِّ صَبَّارٍ شَكُورٍ * وَإِذَا غَشِيَهُم مَّوْجٌ كَالظُّلَلِ دَعَوُا اللَّـهَ مُخْلِصِينَ لَهُ الدِّينَ فَلَمَّا نَجَّاهُمْ إِلَى الْبَرِّ فَمِنْهُم مُّقْتَصِدٌ ۚ وَمَا يَجْحَدُ بِآيَاتِنَا إِلَّا كُلُّ خَتَّارٍ كَفُورٍ

Do you not see that ships sail through the sea by the favor of Allah that He may show you of His signs? Indeed in that are signs for everyone patient and grateful. * And when waves come over them like canopies, they supplicate to Allah, sincere to Him in religion. But when He delivers them to the land, then some of them are muqtasid. And none reject Our signs except every treacherous and ungrateful one. [31-31-32]

The salaf and the scholars differed over how to interpret the word muqtasid in this context. al-Haafidh ibn Kathir offered the following discussion of this issue:

قال : ( فلما نجاهم إلى البر فمنهم مقتصد ) قال مجاهد : أي كافر . كأنه فسر المقتصد هاهنا بالجاحد ، كما قال تعالى : ( فلما نجاهم إلى البر إذا هم يشركون ) [ العنكبوت : 65 ] . ـ

Allah says:

فَلَمَّا نَجَّاهُمْ إِلَى الْبَرِّ فَمِنْهُم مُّقْتَصِدٌ

But when He delivers them to the land, then some of them are muqtasid

Mujahid said, “meaning disbelievers”.

It is as if he was interpreting the word al-muqtasid in this instance in the sense of one who denies Allah’s sole right to be worshipped, as Allah said:

فَلَمَّا نَجَّاهُمْ إِلَى الْبَرِّ إِذَا هُمْ يُشْرِكُونَ

But when He delivers them to the land, then they associate others with Him in worship [29:65] Continue reading

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The Duty of the Scholars to Prohibit and Warn Against Evil: al-Shawkaani & al-Sa’di

In part of surah al-Maa’idah Allah criticizes a number of characteristics of the Jews, and then says:

لَوْلَا يَنْهَاهُمُ الرَّبَّانِيُّونَ وَالْأَحْبَارُ عَن قَوْلِهِمُ الْإِثْمَ وَأَكْلِهِمُ السُّحْتَ ۚ لَبِئْسَ مَا كَانُوا يَصْنَعُونَ

Why don’t the rabbis and religious scholars forbid them from saying what is sinful and devouring what is unlawful? How wretched is what they have been making. [5:63]

Sheikh Muhammad al-Shawkaani comments on this in his tafsir by writing:

 ثم وبخ علماءهم في تركهم لنهيهم فقال : لبئس ما كانوا يصنعون وهذا فيه زيادة على قوله : ( لبئس ما كانوا يعملون ) ؛ لأن العمل لا يبلغ درجة الصنع حتى يتدرب فيه صاحبه ، ولهذا تقول العرب : سيف صنيع إذا جود عامله عمله ، فالصنع هو العمل الجيد لا مطلق العمل  ـ

So Allah rebukes their scholars for neglecting their duty to forbid their people from sins.

Then Allah says:

لَبِئْسَ مَا كَانُوا يَصْنَعُونَ

How wretched is what they have been yasna’oon [making]

and this is something more emphatic than if He had said

لبئس ما كان يعملون

How wretched is what they have been y’amaloon [doing]

because mere “doing” does not reach the level of “making” until the person involved has received a sufficient level of training and expertise. This is why in the Arabic language, one says

سيف صنيع

sanee’ [finely-crafted] sword

when its maker has embellished his work. So the word sana’ [making] is well-done work; it cannot be used to describe just any work.

فوبخ سبحانه الخاصة ، وهم العلماء التاركون للأمر بالمعروف والنهي عن المنكر بما هو أغلظ وأشد من توبيخ فاعل المعاصي

So Allah is reprimanding one group in particular – that is, the scholars who have abandoned their duty to command the good and forbid evil. And here Allah is reprimanding them in a harsher and more severe manner than the reprimand given to one who commits acts of disobedience himself. Continue reading

These are the Hudood of Allah: Sheikh al-Fawzan

Sheikh Saalih al-Fawzan mentioned the following point of benefit in the midst of explaining the Mufassal surahs:

قال (وَتِلْكَ حُدُودُ اللَّـهِ) أي : محرماته ، فتطلق حدود الله على منهياته ، وتطلق على مباحاته . فإذا كانت الحدود المحرمات فإن الله قال : (تِلْكَ حُدُودُ اللَّـهِ فَلَا تَقْرَبُوهَا) فلا تقرب . وإذا كانت الحدود من المباحات فإنها لا تتعدى ، قال : (تِلْكَ حُدُودُ اللَّـهِ فَلَا تَعْتَدُوهَا ۚ وَمَن يَتَعَدَّ حُدُودَ اللَّـهِ فَأُولَـٰئِكَ هُمُ الظَّالِمُونَ) ، لا تتعد الحلال إلى الحرام . والمراد هنا إخراج المطلقة عن بيتها من غير مبرر شرعي . ثم بين الله جريمة من يتعدى حدود الله ، فقال : (وَمَن يَتَعَدَّ حُدُودَ اللَّـهِ فَقَدْ ظَلَمَ نَفْسَهُ) حيث عرضها لعقاب الله . ـ

Allah said:

وَتِلْكَ حُدُودُ اللَّـهِ

… These are the hudood of Allah … [65:1]

meaning the things which He has forbidden.

This term, the hudood of Allah – the “limits of Allah” – is sometimes used to refer to the things which He has prohibited and other times is used to refer to things which are permissible.

When it is referring to those forbidden hudood, then Allah says:

تِلْكَ حُدُودُ اللَّـهِ فَلَا تَقْرَبُوهَا

These are the hudood of Allah so do not approach them [2:187]

so do not even get close to them.

When it is referring to those permissible hudood, then these limits should not be crossed. Allah said: Continue reading

The Meanings of the Word Fitnah in the Qur’an: Tafsir al-Shinqitee

Sheikh Muhammad al-Ameen al-Shinqitee wrote the following in part of his explanation of surah al-Nur:

قال مقيده – عفا الله عنه وغفر له – : قد دل استقراء القرآن العظيم أن الفتنة فيه أطلقت على أربعة معان : ـ

The author – may Allah pardon and forgive him – says: An investigation of the Qur’an shows that the word “fitnah” carries four different meanings within it.

الأول : أن يراد بها الإحراق بالنار ; كقوله تعالى : يوم هم على النار يفتنون [ 51 \ 13 ] ، وقوله تعالى : إن الذين فتنوا المؤمنين والمؤمنات الآية [ 85 \ 10 ] ، أي : أحرقوهم بنار الأخدود على القول بذلك . ـ

The first meaning: That it is used to refer to being burned by fire, such as in Allah’s statement:

يَوْمَ هُمْ عَلَى النَّارِ يُفْتَنُونَ

the Day they will be tormented over the Fire [51:13]

as well as His statement:

إِنَّ الَّذِينَ فَتَنُوا الْمُؤْمِنِينَ وَالْمُؤْمِنَاتِ ثُمَّ لَمْ يَتُوبُوا فَلَهُمْ عَذَابُ جَهَنَّمَ وَلَهُمْ عَذَابُ الْحَرِيقِ

Indeed, those who have tortured the believing men and believing women and then have not repented will have the punishment of Hell, and they will have the punishment of the Burning Fire. [85:10]

meaning: they burned them with the fire of the trench, according to this interpretation of the word.

الثاني وهو أشهرها : إطلاق الفتنة على الاختبار ; كقوله تعالى : ونبلوكم بالشر والخير فتنة الآية [ 21 \ 35 ] ، وقوله تعالى : وأن لو استقاموا على الطريقة لأسقيناهم ماء غدقا لنفتنهم فيه [ 72 \ 16 – 17 ] . ـ

The second meaning, which is the most well-known: Using the word “fitnah” to refer to a trial. This is like Allah’s statement:

وَنَبْلُوكُم بِالشَّرِّ وَالْخَيْرِ فِتْنَةً ۖ وَإِلَيْنَا تُرْجَعُونَ

… and We shall make a trial of you with evil and with good, and to Us you will be returned. [21:35]

and His statement:

وَأَن لَّوِ اسْتَقَامُوا عَلَى الطَّرِيقَةِ لَأَسْقَيْنَاهُم مَّاءً غَدَقًا * لِّنَفْتِنَهُمْ فِيهِ

If they had believed in Allah, and went on the Right Way We should surely have bestowed on them water in abundance. * That We might try them thereby. [72:16-17] Continue reading

Ibn al-Qayyim’s Model for Contemplating the Qur’an

One of the many written works of ibn al-Qayyim al-Jawziyyah is his Risalah al-Tabookiyyah which centers Allah’s command at the beginning of surah al-Ma’idah for the believers to help one another in al-birr and al-taqwa [5:3]. After describing many aspects of this ayah and its implications, ibn al-Qayyim then wrote:

ورأس الأمر وعموده في ذلك إنما هو دوام التفكر وتدبر آيات الله حيث تستولي على الفكر وتشغل القلب فإذا صارت معاني القرآن مكان الخواطر من قلبه وجلس على كرسيه، وصار له التصرف، وصار هو الأمير المطاع أمره، فحينئذ يستقيم له سيره ويتضح له الطريق وتراه ساكنا وهو يباري الريح {وَتَرَى الْجِبَالَ تَحْسَبُهَا جَامِدَةً وَهِيَ تَمُرُّ مَرَّ السَّحَابِ صُنْعَ اللَّهِ الَّذِي أَتْقَنَ كُلَّ شَيْءٍ إِنَّهُ خَبِيرٌ بِمَا تَفْعَلُونَ} . ـ

At the head of all of this and its very foundation is for one to always contemplate and reflect on the ayaat of the Qur’an, so much so that it overpowers one’s other thoughts and becomes the central concern of one’s heart. When the messages of the Qur’an take the place that mere passing thoughts previously held in his heart and begin to rule over it, being what turns his heart and the ruler that it obeys, then his journey becomes smooth and his course becomes clear. So even if it appeared that he was standing still he is in fact moving forward towards Allah fast as the wind.

وَتَرَى الْجِبَالَ تَحْسَبُهَا جَامِدَةً وَهِيَ تَمُرُّ مَرَّ السَّحَابِ صُنْعَ اللَّهِ الَّذِي أَتْقَنَ كُلَّ شَيْءٍ إِنَّهُ خَبِيرٌ بِمَا تَفْعَلُونَ

And you see the mountains, thinking them rigid, while they will pass as the passing of clouds. It is the work of Allah, who perfected all things. Indeed, He is Acquainted with that which you do. [27:88]

فان قلت: إنك قد أشرت إلى مقام عظيم فافتح لي بابه، واكشف لي حجابه، وكيف تدبر القرآن وتفهمه والإشراف على عجائبه وكنوزه؟ وهذه تفاسير الأئمة بأيدينا، فهل في البيان غير ما ذكروه؟ ـ

Now if you were to say, “You have just described a great station, so open up its door for me and remove its veil for me – how does one contemplate and understand the the Qur’an grasp its amazements and great treasures? We have the explanations of the great scholars of tafsir with us, is there anything else to understand the Qur’an beyond what they have already done?”

[See also: Narration-based Tafsir before Opinion-based Tafsir: Sheikh Saalih Aal al-Sheikh]

قلت: سأضرب لك أمثالاً تحتذي عليها وتجعلها إماماً لك في هذا المقصد، قال الله تعالى: {هَلْ أَتَاكَ حَدِيثُ ضَيْفِ إِبْرَاهِيمَ الْمُكْرَمِينَ إِذْ دَخَلُوا عَلَيْهِ فَقَالُوا سَلاماً قَالَ سَلامٌ قَوْمٌ مُنْكَرُونَ فَرَاغَ إِلَى أَهْلِهِ فَجَاءَ بِعِجْلٍ سَمِينٍ، فَقَرَّبَهُ إِلَيْهِمْ قَالَ أَلا تَأْكُلُونَ فَأَوْجَسَ مِنْهُمْ خِيفَةً قَالُوا لا تَخَفْ وَبَشَّرُوهُ بِغُلامٍ عَلِيمٍ فَأَقْبَلَتِ امْرَأَتُهُ فِي صَرَّةٍ فَصَكَّتْ وَجْهَهَا وَقَالَتْ عَجُوزٌ عَقِيمٌ قَالُوا كَذَلِكِ قَالَ رَبُّكِ إِنَّهُ هُوَ الْحَكِيمُ الْعَلِيمُ} . ـ

My response would be: Let me give you some things that you can take as an example and a model to follow for this goal.

Allah says: Continue reading

“A Word They Say with Their Mouths”: Tafsir al-Shawkani

Allah says in surah al-Tawbah:

وَقَالَتِ الْيَهُودُ عُزَيْرٌ ابْنُ اللَّـهِ وَقَالَتِ النَّصَارَى الْمَسِيحُ ابْنُ اللَّـهِ ۖ ذَٰلِكَ قَوْلُهُم بِأَفْوَاهِهِمْ ۖ يُضَاهِئُونَ قَوْلَ الَّذِينَ كَفَرُوا مِن قَبْلُ ۚ قَاتَلَهُمُ اللَّـهُ ۚ أَنَّىٰ يُؤْفَكُونَ

The Jews say, “‘Uzayr is the son of Allah “; and the Christians say, “The Messiah is the son of Allah.” That is their statement from their mouths; they imitate the saying of those who disbelieved [before them]. May Allah destroy them; how are they deluded? [9:30]

Sheikh Muhammad al-Shawkani mentions the following benefit in his explanation of this ayah:

قوله : ذلك قولهم بأفواههم الإشارة إلى ما صدر عنهم من هذه المقالة الباطلة . ـ

Allah’s statement:

ذَٰلِكَ قَوْلُهُم بِأَفْوَاهِهِمْ

That is their statement from their mouths

indicates that these things which have emanated from them are false statements.

ووجه قولهم بأفواههم مع العلم بأن القول لا يكون إلا بالفم ، بأن هذا القول لما كان ساذجا ليس فيه بيان ولا عضده برهان كان مجرد دعوى ، لا معنى تحتها ، فارغة صادرة عنهم صدور المهملات التي ليس فيها إلا كونها خارجة من الأفواه ، غير مفيدة لفائدة يعتد بها ، وقيل : إن ذكر الأفواه لقصد التأكيد كما في ” كتبت بيدي ومشيت برجلي ” ، ومنه قوله – تعالى – : يكتبون الكتاب بأيديهم ( البقرة : 79 ) وقوله : ولا طائر يطير بجناحيه ( الأنعام : 38 ) . ـ

The reason for saying “from their mouths” despite it being common knowledge that speech does not happen by any other means than the mouth is that this statement of theirs is nothing more than a claim since it is just a simple-minded statement without any further elaboration or supporting evidence. It is nothing more than an empty claim without any meaning beneath it, a careless utterance with no substance to it at all. It is just something that came from their mouths without actually having any real meaning to it. Continue reading

What the Salaf Meant by “Abrogation”: Ibn al-Qayyim

In the midst of a discussion urging people not to be hasty or eager to issue legal rulings, ibn al-Qayyim mentioned the following narration about naskh – frequently translated as “abrogation” – and then added some valuable commentary afterwards:

وقال ابن وهب : حدثنا أشهل بن حاتم عن عبد الله بن عون عن ابن سيرين قال : قال حذيفة : إنما يفتي الناس أحد ثلاثة : من يعلم ما نسخ من القرآن ، أو أمير لا يجد بدا ، أو أحمق متكلف ، قال : فربما قال ابن سيرين : فلست بواحد من هذين ، ولا أحب أن أكون الثالث ـ

… ibn Sireen said: Hudhayfah said,

The only ones who issue legal rulings to the people are one of the following three types: 1) someone who knows which parts of the Qur’an have been subject to naskh, 2) a ruler who cannot find any alternative, or 3) an imbecile who fancies himself as being qualified.

The sub-narrator said: I think ibn Sireen said, “I am neither one of the first two, and I would not like to be the third.”

قلت : مراده ومراد عامة السلف بالناسخ والمنسوخ رفع الحكم بجملته تارة وهو اصطلاح المتأخرين ، ورفع دلالة العام والمطلق والظاهر وغيرها تارة ، إما بتخصيص أو تقييد أو حمل مطلق على مقيد وتفسيره وتبيينه حتى إنهم يسمون الاستثناء والشرط والصفة نسخا لتضمن ذلك رفع دلالة الظاهر وبيان المراد ، فالنسخ عندهم وفي لسانهم هو بيان المراد بغير ذلك اللفظ ، بل بأمر خارج عنه ، ومن تأمل كلامهم رأى من ذلك فيه ما لا يحصى ، وزال عنه به إشكالات أوجبها حمل كلامهم على الاصطلاح الحادث المتأخر . ـ Continue reading

Using the Past Tense to Refer to the Future: Tafsir ibn ‘Uthaymeen

In part of surah al-Saffaat, Allah describes the events of the Day of Recompense by saying:

وَقَالُوا يَا وَيْلَنَا هَـٰذَا يَوْمُ الدِّينِ

This can be literally translated as:

And they said: Woe to us! This is the Day of Reckoning! (37:20)

In his explanation of this surah, sheikh Muhammad ibn Saalih al-‘Uthaymeen said:

وقوله تعالى (وَقَالُوا يَا وَيْلَنَا هَـٰذَا يَوْمُ الدِّينِ ) قالوا أتى بفعل الماضى مع أنه القول المستقبل ، لتحقق وقوعه ، وهذا كثير في اللغة العربية ، والقرآن الكريم يعبر عن المستقبل بالماضي لتحقق وقوعه ومثاله قوله تعالى(أتى أمر الله)فإن أمر الله لم يأت بدليل قوله تعالى(فلا تستعجلوه)لكن أتى هنا بمعنى يأتي وعبر عن المستقبل بالماضي لتحقق وقوعه

Allah’s statement:

وَقَالُوا يَا وَيْلَنَا هَـٰذَا يَوْمُ الدِّينِ

And they said: Woe to us! This is the Day of Reckoning!

the word “they said” comes as a past tense verb despite the fact that it is a future statement. This is done to affirm that this definitely will take place. This is a common practice in the Arabic language, and the Qur’an will refer to a future event by using the past tense in order to affirm that it certainly will come to pass. An example of this is Allah’s statement: Continue reading

What the Memorizer of the Qur’an Ought to Know: Makki ibn Abi Taalib

Abu Muhammad Makki ibn Abi Taalib (died 437 AH) was one of the great scholars of the Qur’anic sciences in his era, having produced enduring works in the fields of the qiraa’aat, tajweed, tafsir, and the Arabic language. What follows is a small excerpt from al-Ri’aayah li-Tajweed, a definitive work on tajweed among the earlier generations:

باب ما يكمل به حال طالب القرآن
What the Seeker of the Qur’an Needs in Order to be Proficient

ينبغي لطالب القرآن أن يتعلم أحكام القرآن فيفهم عن الله ما فرض عليه ، ويلقن عنه ما خاطبه به ، فينتفع بما يقرأ ويعمل بما يتلو وأن يتعلم الناسخ والمنسوخ فيعلم ما فرض عليه مما لم يفرض عليه وما سقط العمل به مما العمل به واجب ، وأن يتعلم الفرائض والأحكام ، فما أقبح حامل القرآن أن يتلو فرائضه وأحكامه عن ظهر قلب وهو لا يعلم ما يتلو ، فكيف يعمل بما لا يفهم معناه ؟ فما أقبح أن يسأل عن فقه ما يتلوه ولا يدريه ! فما مثل من هذه حالته إلا كمثل الحمار يحمل أسفارا . ـ

The one seeking to learn and memorize the Qur’an ought to learn the legal rulings of the Qur’an so that he can know and understand from Allah Himself what Allah has mandated for him and comprehend what He is addressing him with. In doing so he can benefit from what he is reading and act according to what he is reciting.

He should also learn what is naasikh and what is mansukh[1] so that he can distinguish what is binding on him from what is not mandatory on him, and that which is no longer acted on from that which is he required to carry out.

So let him learn the legal obligations and rulings, for what is worse than a person who carries the Qur’an and recites its obligations and rulings by heart but doesn’t know what he is reciting? How will he act according to something he does not understand? What is worse than someone who asks about the meaning of something he recites while not even knowing it? There is nothing more fitting to describe the condition of such a person than a donkey hauling around tablets. Continue reading

Assorted Qur’an Benefits #10

What follows is a collection of benefits that were originally posted on our Facebook page in December 2015, and January and February of 2016:

♦ Fearing Allah is a Part of Eeemaan

Allah says to the believers in surah Aal ‘Imraan:

 إِنَّمَا ذَٰلِكُمُ الشَّيْطَانُ يُخَوِّفُ أَوْلِيَاءَهُ فَلَا تَخَافُوهُمْ وَخَافُونِ إِن كُنتُم مُّؤْمِنِينَ

It is only the Shaytan that suggests to you to fear his allies; so fear them not, but fear Me, if you are indeed believers. (3:175)

In part of his commentary on this ayah, Sheikh ‘Abd al-Rahman al-Sa’di wrote:

وفي هذه الآية وجوب الخوف من الله وحده، وأنه من لوازم الإيمان، فعلى قدر إيمان العبد يكون خوفه من الله، والخوف المحمود: ما حجز العبد عن محارم الله

This ayah shows the obligation of fearing of Allah alone and that this is a necessary part of al-eemaan. For a slave’s fear of Allah is in accordance with his eemaan. And the praiseworthy type of fear is that which restrains the slave from what Allah had made forbidden.

[Taysir al-Kareem al-Rahman pg. 168]


♦ The Great Value of al-Hamdulillaah

Abu’l-Fidaa’ Ismaa’eel ibn Kathir wrote the following in his tafsir of surah al-Fatihah:

وقال القرطبي في تفسيره ، وفي نوادر الأصول عن أنس عن النبي صلى الله عليه وسلم قال : لو أن الدنيا بحذافيرها في يد رجل من أمتي ثم قال : الحمد لله ، لكان الحمد لله أفضل من ذلك . قال القرطبي وغيره : أي لكان إلهامه الحمد لله أكبر نعمة عليه من نعم الدنيا ؛ لأن ثواب الحمد لا يفنى ونعيم الدنيا لا يبقى ، قال الله تعالى : المال والبنون زينة الحياة الدنيا والباقيات الصالحات خير عند ربك ثوابا وخير أملا [ الكهف : 46 ] .ـ

al-Qurtubi said in his tafsir: In the book Nawaadir al-Usool, it is reported that Anas narrated that the Prophet said, “If the entire dunya were to be in the hands of a man from among my ummah and then he were to say, ‘alhamdulillaah‘, that alhamdulillaah would be better for him than all of that.” Continue reading